As with the previous Proverbs in this chapter we see opposing sides of the truth. In verse 1 wisdom is a builder and folly destroys. Wisdom constructs and folly destructs. In verse 3 pride comes out of the mouth of the fool but the lips of the wise will preserve them. In verse 5 we see an observation of perjury. In society the words of a witness could either condemn a man of free him. It is imperative that a witness speaks truthfully. And in verse 6 the scoffer who should know better has no respect for the Lord and will never gain wisdom no matter how hard he may try.
In verse 7 we gain some sound advice. We are admonished to depart from the fool as he will not be a help to you. In verse 8 wisdom gives good sense that one can weigh the consequences of his actions in the future. It is the ability to make good decisions while the foolish will only deceive himself.
In verse 9 we see that the fool makes a mockery of sinful behavior. But the wise will walk in righteousness and have good will. No one knows the joy or sadness that is on the inside of a person. But the Lord knows. (Proverbs 15:11; 16:2; 24:12)
The contrast of verse 11 is that the house of the wicked should be stronger than the tent of the upright. But this is not true as the wicked man’s house will be destroyed and the tent of the upright will flourish. The way of evil appears to be substantial and the upright may seem tentative and frail. But in the end good will prevail. One may rationalize the evil life he leads will survive but in the end his wicked ways lead to destruction and death.
In verse 13 we see life is a mixture of sadness and joy. Even in the laughter of people one can hear the minor notes of sadness. This is not a pessimistic note but a realistic recognition that life moves between two poles of joy and sadness, pleasure and pain. The backslider in heart is not one who has been given to apostasy but has deliberately chosen to do the evil that he does. The consequence is that evil will reap evil and good will reap good. This is a standard position in the book of Proverbs.
In verse 15 we see a contrast between the gullible and simpleminded person and one who is discerning. A prudent person is able to take size of the situation and make the right decision. Verse 16 is a comparison of verse 15 and reverses the previous saying. The fool trusts and believes what people tell him but the wise will consider each step even as the fool is prideful and walks carelessly. In verse 17 a quick tempered man will act without considering his steps and the evil man will plan his evil purposes. Verse 19 makes a confident statement of the triumph of good over evil.
In verses 20-21 we read statements of neighborliness. First we see that the poor person is disliked by his neighbor. And then the second chastises the one who dislikes his poor neighbor. It is easy to desire friendship with the rich but real happiness comes from being kind to the poor. (Luke 14:12-14)
Verse 22 is in a question form which is rare in Proverbs. But the answer is obvious that the evil will go astray and the truth will guide those who devise good. In verse 23 it is work and not words that is the way to productivity. We should not just talk about how busy we are but get busy and turn out good results. In verse 24 we see the consistent theme that wealth is the just reward for man’s labors.
In verse 25 a truthful witness is of absolute importance when one is accused in a crime in which a guilty verdict would cost one his life. If the witness is a lair he is not only annoying but a traitor.
Verses 26-27 are about the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is at the heart of Proverbs understanding of wisdom. By our reverence for the Lord there is security for self and for one’s family. The Lord is the source of life. In 28 a king without subjects is not a king at all but one to be laughed at.
Verse 29-30 are parallels on the virtues of tranquility and even-temperedness. In verse 31 deep social concern is expressed for the poor. This is remarkable in the fact that poverty was often judged by the wise to express as evidence of God’s displeasure with the person who was poor. But here whoever opposes the poor is insulting the Creator. Being kind to the poor is honoring God. Jesus said, “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)
In verse 32 we see that the wicked will be cast down for the evil they do while the righteous will find refuge with God. Verse 33 tells is that the character of one will be displayed always. The wise will display wisdom and the foolish will display foolishness. Verse 34 would be valproate for any civic student to know. God is the rightful sovereign of any state and sin is a reproach. Verse 35 teaches that the king is pleased with the wise and angered by the foolish.